Max Ritvo: A Celebration | Regulator Bookshop | Page: Literary Related | Indy Week

Page: Literary Related

Max Ritvo: A Celebration

When: Wed., Jan. 11, 7 p.m. 2017

Rimbaud famously made his major achievements in poetry by his early twenties and then quit writing the stuff forever. Now the same can be said of Max Ritvo. The difference is that he had no choice but to stop young. Ritvo, who died at age twenty-five in August, was diagnosed with terminal cancer at sixteen, a fact he reckoned with fearlessly and originally in his poems. Perhaps you caught his "Poem to My Litter" in The New Yorker last summer. "My doctors split my tumors up and scattered them/ into the bones of twelve mice. We give/ the mice poisons I might, in the future, want/ for myself," Ritvo wrote. "We watch each mouse like a crystal ball." His debut collection, Four Reincarnations, published by Milkweed Editions in September, is as notable for the quality and variety of its verse as for its context. Though death naturally looms large, the poems range far beyond chemotherapy and hospitals to explore, with heroic persistence, the sensations of life, love, and desire, from the quotidian to the sublime. Evan Walker-Wells, the publisher of local political mag Scalawag, became friends with Ritvo while both were undergoing cancer treatment and studying poetry at Yale with the great Louise Glück, who called Four Reincarnations "one of the most original and ambitious first books in my experience." Now Walker-Wells and other friends of Ritvo's give the book-release reading that he, sadly, never will, in a celebration of his remarkable life, national impact, and prodigious accomplishment. —Brian Howe

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